We knew it was coming soon. Perched upon the precipice of history, on the verge of becoming the 28th player in the annals of Major League Baseball to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, Derek Jeter began the day with 2,998 career base-hits.
With only two hits to go to join the exclusive club of baseball's all-time greats, it seemed a foregone conclusion for the Yankee captain, barring any unforeseen catastrophe that could derail the quest.
After the chase was delayed by a three-week stint on the disabled list, Jeter resumed his pursuit of history on July 4, determined to accomplish the feat so that he, and his team, could get on with the business of winning ballgames.
Following three games in Cleveland, the Yankees returned home Thursday for a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx, affording Jeter the opportunity to once again make history in Yankee Stadium.
Unfortunately for fans with tickets to Friday's contest, Mother Nature had other plans, as the game was rained out and rescheduled for a day late in September. That would leave Jeter with only two games remaining in the first half if he wanted to reach the milestone at home. Following the All-Star break, the Yankees embark upon an eight-game road trip that takes them through Toronto and Tampa.
Despite the delays, and Jeter's struggles early in 2011, with history so close, the Yankee captain was determined to reach history at home.
His moment, yet another in a career loaded with incredible achievements, would come Saturday, at home, in front of the Yankee faithful who have loyally supported him throughout his 17-year career.
Leading off the bottom of the first inning, Jeter engaged in a drawn-out battle with hard-throwing Tampa lefty, David Price, singling through the 5-6 hole on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
Standing at 2,999 hits, with all eyes upon him as he knocked upon Cooperstown's door, Jeter strode to the plate once again, this time with one out in the bottom of the third.
Down 1-0 in the game, Jeter's focus was likely on getting a rally started to get his team even, trying to drown out the massive crowd and their eagerness to witness history.
Another hard-fought battle with Price ensued, as Jeter worked the count full before fouling off two more tough pitches from Tampa's young ace.
Again on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Jeter won the encounter with Price, turning on a slider just-below the knees, driving it deep into the stands in left field to even the score and ignite the Yankee Stadium crowd.
Number 3,000 was his.
With the slightly improbable home run, Jeter became only the second player in MLB history to reach the plateau with a round-tripper, joining Wade Boggs in the exclusive club.
In becoming the 28th man in baseball's 3,000-hit club, Jeter became the first Yankee to accomplish the feat, as well as the fourth-youngest player ever to do so.
Considering all the legends who have passed through the Bronx, it's rather amazing that he is the only Yankee to ever reach the rare milestone. Not Babe Ruth, not Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig or Mickey Mantle. Only Derek Jeter.
Jeter wasn't finished however, as he had a ballgame to win.
In his next plate appearance, Jeter laced a double down the left-field line, continuing his fantastic day. Later, in the sixth inning, the Yankee shortstop would line a Jeterian single into right field, beyond the reach of Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist.
Just a triple short of the cycle, Jeter would receive one more opportunity to add to his historical day, stepping to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the score tied at four.
With protege Eduardo Nunez standing at third following his leadoff double, and a sacrifice bunt by Brett Gardner, Jeter calmly grounded a 1-2 splitter up the middle to give the Yankees the lead.
That single made Jeter 5-for-5, making him the only player in history to reach 3,000 hits with a 5-for-5 game. Perhaps most-pleasing to Jeter was the fact that the fifth hit turned the lead over to Mariano Rivera, eventually resulting in a critical win for the Bombers.
Derek Jeter, the man with 3,000 hits, the most in Yankee history, five World Series rings and a several lifetimes worth of accomplishments on the baseball diamond, was once again the king of New York.
With one more amazing day in a career full of them, the Yankee shortstop finally got the pressure-packed milestone out of his way so he can do what he has always done; focus on winning.
If the Yankees are to return to the promised land of playoff baseball, they will need a big second half from their inspirational captain. With a long, difficult road ahead of them in the talent-laden AL East, the Yankees will need big games throughout the summer.
For one day though, it was all about the captain, as Jeter wowed the baseball world with a massive day in the Bronx, leading his team to victory and earning his place amongst baseball's elite.
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